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Beatrice and Virgil Hardcover – 3 Jun 2010


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Canongate Books Ltd (3 Jun. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1847677657
  • ISBN-13: 978-1847677655
  • Product Dimensions: 14.3 x 2.2 x 22 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 309,435 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Yann Martel was born in Spain in 1963. After studying philosophy at university, he worked at odd jobs and travelled before turning to writing at the age of twenty-six. He is the author of the internationally acclaimed 2002 Man Booker Prize-winning novel Life of Pi, which was translated into thirty-eight languages and spent fifty-seven weeks on the New York Times Bestseller List. His collection of short stories, The Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios, and his first novel, Self, both received critical acclaim. Yann Martel lives in Saskatchewan, Canada.

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Review

Somewhere between Beckett and Ionesco...with its textures of genre and allegory, there also comes an explosion of ideas that keep the pages turning...a wild, provocative novel. -- Joy Lo Dico, The Independent on Sunday

As an elliptical fable, [Beatrice and Virgil] is a model of clarity and dread. --Rosemary Goring, The Herald, Arts Supplement

A slim but potent exploration of the nature of survival in the face of evil. --Nina Sankovitch, The Huffington Post

Audaciously original, never less than engrossing, often disturbing, and in its denouement truly horrifying. --Mick Brown, The Telegraph Magazine

[Beatrice and Virgil] is elaborately structured, with narratives tucked into other narratives and, in terms of themes, more layers than an Italian wedding cake. --David Robson, Sunday Telegraph, Seven

About the Author

Yann Martel was born in Spain in 1963. After studying philosophy at university, he worked at odd jobs and travelled before turning to writing. He is the author of the internationally acclaimed 2002 Man Booker Prize-winning novel Life of Pi, which was translated into thirty-eight languages. Yann Martel lives in Saskatchewan, Canada.

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3.4 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

46 of 48 people found the following review helpful By Julia Flyte TOP 100 REVIEWER on 17 May 2010
Format: Paperback
Like Yann Martel himself, Henry is a Canadian author whose second book - which features wild animals - has become both a critical success and a wildly popular bestseller. He then struggles for five years with his next book, which is about the ways that the Holocaust is represented in literature. He thinks he has found a fresh approach to tell the story, but his publisher, editor and agent unanimously reject it. Henry and his wife move away and he takes a break from writing. He starts working in a café, takes up the clarinet and joins an amateur theatrical group. One day he receives a package containing a short story by Flaubert (in which many animals are killed) together with an extract from a original play featuring a discussion between two characters: Beatrice and Virgil. An accompanying note reads: "I need your help". This prompts him to track down the author, an elderly taxidermist (also named Henry) who lives in the same city. Taxidermist Henry has been working on his play for 40 years, but isn't satisfied with it. At this point the plot slows down, and the play becomes the focus of the story.

So Beatrice and Virgil is a strange combination of what seems to be a highly autobiographical memoir with a not-very-compelling mystery, that centres on a play about a donkey and a howler monkey living on a striped shirt - which is itself a fairly laboured and obvious metaphor for something else. And that's the biggest issue for me. When I started reading the book I felt that it was stimulating, riddled with clues and associations, that it was operating on so many levels. But as I read on, I increasingly felt that I was being bludgeoned with the same heavy-handed metaphors over and over.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Boof VINE VOICE on 28 July 2010
Format: Hardcover
I barely know where to start with this book. I actually finished it over a week ago but wanted to wait a while to collect my thoughts about it and see if they are any clearer after some consideration. They aren't: I am just as confused.

I was so desperate to get my mitts on this book: Life of Pi is one of my all-time favourites and I have developed a huge crush on tigers since reading the book. When I saw the cover and the blurb for Beatrice and Virgil I was practically cartwheeling round the room in anticipation of my my brand new crush on donkeys and howler monkeys. It's by Yann Martel. It's got animals in it. What's not to love?

I will attempt to describe the plot now: There is an author called Henry who has had two really successful books out and he has just written a third which gets panned by his publishers. In the first 20 pages of this book I learned more about flip books than I ever realised I cared (and am assured that I still don't). Henry throws his toys out of the pram and moves to another (unamed) city to live off his previous royalties and do things like join an orchestra and a drama group without writing another thing. One day he ets a strange letter from a man also called Henry. The letter contains a chapter of a play that Henry #2 has written and asks Henry #1 for help. Coincidentally, Henry #2 lives in the same city where Henry #1 has just moved to so Henry #1 decides to pay him a visit and finds that Henry #2 lives and works as a taxidermist. The rest of the book flits between the play that Henry #2 has written which is about a donkey called Beatrice and a howler monkey called Virgil who live on a striped shirt, and the two Henry's meeting to discuss the play.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By shortforbob on 28 July 2010
Format: Hardcover
Free copies of this book has been sent out by the publisher to many book clubs, so my book club leader told us. The response from the 8 of us was resoundingly negative. You can easily substitute Henry, the main character who, after a first award winning novel, fails to come up to grade with his second book. His publishers scoff at his first attempt and he moves away to 'find himself' or some such thing. The secondary character (also called Henry?) quotes heavily from another book (now out of copyright) in his 'play' about Beatrice and Virgil. The ending gave us more questions than answers as it rips you away from the story that is only just starting to develop and off on a tangent.

The book, thankfully, is short. My favourite books are the ones that make me stay up in the early hours because i can't drag myself away from the pages. This was not that sort of book. Let's hope that putting a sticker on the front refering to the Life of Pi, will lead people to read it, as the content won't. We also noted that the back cover which details all the fabulous things reviewers have said sneakily refers, not to this story, but to Pi.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By B. McGarvey on 3 May 2011
Format: Hardcover
I find some of the negative reviews of this book quite surprising, especially the people who said it is not an easy read. I found that it was a real page turner and I read it in a couple of days. I liked the several different texts / stories within the main story of Beatrice and Virgil, a technique which is often employed by Paul Auster who is one of my favourite writers. I wouldn't say Beatrice and Virgil is as good as Life of Pie but I did actually find B and V easier to read from the onset (I found that it took me a while to get into Pi before it became unputdownable!). When I first saw the animals on the book cover I thought Martel may just be cashing in on the success of Life of Pie, and maybe that was Martel's initial reason for choosing to use animal characters again, however I must say that this book is an altogether different beast (with beast being the operative word). I think Martel achieved what he set out to do in respect of using animal characters instead of humans, in that I think it added to the horror of the ending of Beatrice's and Virgil's story (the play) which I found really quite harrowing and shocking, probably more so than if Martel had used human characters in a more straight-forward holocaust novel (which there are of course so many of already). I felt genuinely upset after reading this book and actually contemplated skipping some scenes because they were so distressing. There was the occasional humorous moment too, especially when Henry's wife makes a "Winnie the Pooh meets the holocaust" comment (it's rare that a book has me in hysterics!). On the whole I found B and V enjoyable and interesting and the type of novel that will no doubt play on my mind for some time.
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